'La Vie Scolaire': An attempted positive view of banlieue life

Liam Pierron as a troubled student in La Vie Scolaire
Liam Pierron as a troubled student in 'La Vie Scolaire'.

School Life (La Vie Scolaire)
Directed by Grand Corps Malade and Mehdi Idir
Starring Zita Hanrot, Liam Pierron, Soufiane Guerrab and Alban Ivanov
In French and Arabic, with subtitles
Showing nationally as part of the Alliance Française French Film Festival, March/April

The banlieues that ring Paris are high-rise apartment complexes in which the poor are congregated. The word is effectively a synonym for ghetto, where non-white migrants are corralled and managed by the French police and pilloried by the media.

Seine-Saint-Denis, where La Vie Scolaire is set, is the department with the highest proportion of migrants, the highest crime rate and the greatest number of drug offences. However, the film sets out to show another side of this struggle town, one that is more hopeful.

Directors Grand Corps Malade and Mehdi Idir, one a rap singer and the other a hip hop dancer, both hail from Seine-Saint-Denis. The film is inspired by their lives as high school students. They have previously collaborated on video clips and it shows through with moments of inspired camera work.

With so much going for it, La Vie Scolaire unfortunately does not realise its promise. The script’s humour often falls flat and, at times, borders on sexist or racist bullying. There is a satisfactory moment where the protagonist pulls up someone for inappropriate sexist comments.

Despite the likable characters and possibilities of dramatic tension, La Vie Scolaire fails to develop into a memorable film.